The Passamaquoddy tribe, located at Indian Township and Pleasant Point in Washington County, Maine, has released a new app for iPhone and Android users, specifically designed to encourage the use and retention of the Passamaquoddy language—one of the few Native languages still spoken on the east coast.
Until the early 1980s, the Passamaquoddy language had been passed down entirely through oral traditions, when the tribe began developing a written system using 17 letters from the modern English alphabet. After the writing system was developed, it began to be implemented in tribal schools.
In 2008, the Passamaquoddy tribe published the first complete dictionary of the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language, containing over 18,000 entries. At the same time, the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal went live on the World Wide Web, providing people all over the world with access to the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language.
The new smartphone app, available through the Apple App Store or Google Play, teaches users how to speak Passamaquoddy through written examples, audio recordings, videos, quizzes, and even games, allowing users to track their progress and improve their fluency. With categories such as office phrases, household items, commands, and traditional clothing, this app provides an easy way to practice speaking Passamaquoddy in a 21st century context.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this app is it's lack of availability—while anyone can download it, only members of the Passamaquoddy tribe have access to the PIN numbers required to activate the app. Cultural appropriation is a rampant problem not only in Maine, but throughout Indian Country, so the restrictions placed on the app is one way that the Passamaquoddy tribe has chosen to enforce their rights to self determination, sovereignty, and to prevent misappropriation of the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language, please visit www.pmportal.org. The Language Portal is free to use and open to the public, and includes audio and video links as well as pronunciation guides.